I couldn't quite believe it, when I first got the news over the weekend. But it's true: "Congress, in a surprising blow to the Bush administration's nuclear weapons ambitions, has eliminated funding for two major bomb research programs, including a so-called bunker buster that the president had said was essential to the country's security," the San Francisco Chronicle (among others) is reporting.The bunker-buster or, more formally, the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" is a weapon that burrows about 10 yards beneath the ground before unleashing hell. And it has been a contentious issue in Congress ever since it was proposed by the Administration in 2002. Last year, legislators cut funds for the project in half. Then, in June, a key Republican representative Ohio's David Hobson, who chairs the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee moved to wipe out funds for the program entirely. The money was later restored in the Senate.Now, Hobson seems to have struck again, fulfilling a pledge John Kerry made in the Presidential debates, to ban the bunker-buster."The U.S. has about 10,000 warheads in the stockpile already. To him, that number is enough," Hobson's press secretary, Sara Perkins, tells the Chron.But while Hobson has complained long and loud about America's Cold War-sized atomic stockpile, there's a little more to his bunker-buster opposition than that. Hobson has also been a big-time critic of the Energy Department bureaucrats in charge of the country's nuclear weapons programs. And he's not afraid to use issues like the bunker-buster as a club against them. As I wrote back in June:
[In 2003], he pared back proposed funding for some weapons research programs. For others, he withheld funds until the Bush administration came up with a plan to shrink the country's nuclear weapons stockpile. That road map -- to halve the American arsenal by 2012 -- was submitted last week."After several years of frustration, we finally put a fence around some of (Energy Department's) advanced concepts funding and said that it would not be available until the department delivered a revised stockpile plan," Hobson said in a statement. "I admit that we held a DOE program hostage until they produced this revised stockpile plan, and you know what? -- the power of the purse does work!"